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Protect our commons and say #BurgerOff to BBQs!

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is urging residents to say ‘Burger Off’ to disposable barbecue’s and pack a picnic instead if they’re heading out and about this Summer.

Already this year, the service has been called to over 500 fires in our outdoor spaces. The service has also created a map showing the location, size and cause of years fires in open spaces: https://bit.ly/BurgerOffBBQ.

Wildfires are sadly becoming more and more common, and cause devastating damage to our countryside, rare species in Surrey, and people’s lives and livelihoods.

SFRS has partnered with Horsell Common Preservation Society, Surrey Wildlife Trust and Waverley Borough Council on this campaign. They’re helping to highlight the affect wildfires can also have on wildlife.

Horsell Common – In April of this year, a wildfire took place on Horsell Common which caused significant damage. Wildlife can be badly affected by wildfire – birds nest in the ground, and insects and reptiles are actively feeding on the land. There is much wider knock-on effect than people may realise to the wider food chain, the damage caused by wildfire takes years and money to repair and restore our heathland.

Frensham Common – In July 2010, Frensham had a major wildfire that burnt through 148 acres. The fire had a major impact on the local wildlife, the only single pair of Dartford Warblers and their young at Frensham were nesting on the common were destroyed, uncounted reptiles and insects perished, and the Heath Tiger Beetle has not been seen on the common since that fire. It has taken 11 years of careful management and work to get the heath back into condition for some animals, however, to have a healthy population of reptiles will take at least another 10 years. In June in 2021, 35 BBQ’s were discovered and extinguished by Waverly Borough Council Rangers.

Chobham Common – The largest National Nature Reserve in the South East of England, is home to around 100 different bird species, and more than 300 species of wildlife! In 2020, a wildfire broke out and resulted in 10 days of firefighting and was declared a Major Incident. The fire spread quickly and destroyed around 500 acres, which is roughly the size of 378 football fields. When habitats such as Chobham are destroyed by wildfire, it can take years before the area becomes suitable for different species.

Spencer Nicholls, Wildfire and Rural Partnerships Officer at SFRS, said: “We’ve been working with landowners to explore ways to mitigate and ultimately prevent wildfires in the open and limit the devastation they leave behind. Some of our outdoor spaces are covered by a Public Service Protection Order in place, which means if you are found using a disposable BBQ or open fire you could be served a fixed penalty notice of £100”.

The aim of the Burger Off campaign is to discourage BBQ use and raise awareness to the potentially devastating effects their use could have to our countryside and wildlife. It is hoped that by highlighting the problem in this way, people will reconsider using a BBQ. Once lit, it can take several hours for a disposable barbecue to cool to a level that it can be disposed of safely, the risk of starting a wildfire is simply not worth it.

Mark Nuti, Cabinet Member for Communities, which includes SFRS, said: “It’s really, really important that communities pull together to prevent so much disruption and ruin in our beautiful Surrey countryside. It isn’t just the locals we need to engage with this campaign – residents travel to these locations, some of which are areas of natural beauty – so we need everyone to get involved.

“Last year, our fire service attended two major wildfires which not only took days of resource to bring under control. The Chobham Common wildfire also threatened homes as it resulted in around 120 people being evacuated. Please work with us and don’t let that happen again.”

If you’re heading to Chobham, Horsell or Fresham Commons, share a picture of our #BurgerOff signs on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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